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Gabon: On President Omar Bongo's death

Sunday night, French media announced the death of President Omar Bongo of Gabon, who had spent 41 of his 73 years in power. French newspaper Le Point reported that they received news of his death, by cancer, in a private clinic in Barcelona, through a “source close to the President's entourage”. AFP, on the other hand, reported a French governmental source. But later Prime Minister Jean Eyeghe Ndong told Gabonese TV that he had been “very surprised” to read the reports.

Omar Bongo

When Omar Bongo was admitted in Barcelona's Quirón clinic earlier in May, a comment by Akin a the African Loft predicted his death away from his subjects:

The greatest indictment of his lamentable regime of 42 years is that Gabon does not have hospitals that could treat either himself or his wife.

What kind of leadership is one that cannot bring any appreciable benefits to its people whilst the leaders jet off to foreign lands for the slightest sign of discomfort?

This is an indictment that applies to probably the whole of African leadership, the inability to raise the standards of infrastructure, education, health and opportunity.

When would we be able to make all leadership really accountable for their years of disservice?

[...] The morale of this sordid tale is unAfrican in its context, the king shall not die in his palace surrounded by his subjects who “adore” him but in a non-descript expensive hospital room surrounded by strangers.

A king that fails to rule with probity will die in a distance in disgrace with everyone breathing a long sigh of relief – Good riddance! To them all.

Togolese blogger Rodrigue Kopgli, of Jeunesse Unie pour la Démocratie en Afrique [Fr], called Bongo “one of the last crocodiles of Françafrique“:

Ami de tous les gouvernements français depuis De Gaulle, Albert-Bernard Bongo devenu El Hadj Omar Bongo puis Ondimba (le peuple lui réclame du changement démocratique, il lui offre des changements de nom personnel), n’a jamais cessé d’être l’Agent des Services secrets français qu’il était à sa prise du pouvoir. Fort de sa longévité et de la fortune amassée au sommet du Gabon, Le Hadj s’octroie le luxe de financer des campagnes électorales en France notamment celle de François Mitterrand comme l’a écrit Pierre Péan dans « Affaires africaines ». Il laisse aussi un gigantesque parc mobilier et immobilier en France et des comptes bancaires secrets qui bien évidemment font et feront le bonheur des paradis fiscaux qui les hébergent. Le peuple gabonais pendant ce temps manque de tout. Avec un tel bilan, la terre ne lui sera pas légère du tout. Et les Africains qu’il prétendait cyniquement représenter ne se mettront pas en deuil, non plus.

Friend of all French governments since De Gaulle, Albert-Bernard Bongo, who later became El Hadj Omar Bongo and then Ondimba (the people were asking for democratic change, he offered them personal name changes), he never stopped being the French secret service agent that he had been since he came to power. With his longevity and fortune amassed in power, the Hadj afforded himself the luxury of financing electoral campaigns in France, in particular that of François Mitterrant as written by Pierre Péan in “African Affairs”. He's also leaving gigantic real estate assets and private property in France, and secret bank accounts that are making the tax havens where they are hosted very happy. Meanwhile, the Gabonese people are lacking everything. With this legacy, he will not be missed at all. And the Africans that he was cynically pretending to represent will not mourn him either.

Citing Togo's experience, Kopgli doubts Bongo's death will bring change:

La mort de Bongo n’apportera rien de salutaire au peuple gabonais, car les héritiers Ali et Pascaline Bongo sont déjà positionnés et portés par Bolloré – ami personnel de Sarkozy – et de Christophe de Margerie de TotalFinaElf et de bien d’autres vampires pour capter le pouvoir, comme ce fut le cas du Togo où les fils du défunt Gnassingbe ont été portés au pouvoir sous le double poids du viol et des violences.

Bongo's death is not going to bring anything beneficial to the Gabonese people, because the heir and heiress Ali and Pascaline Bongo have already been groomed and brought by Bolloré -personal friend of Sarkozy- and of Christophe de Margerie of TotalFinaElf and many other vampires to suck power, as it was the case in Togo where the children of the late Gnassingbe were brought to power under the double weight of rape and violence.

Ivorian blogger Théophile Kouamouo [Fr], who also mentions Togo, ponders about what will happen after Bongo's death and wonders about the future of the Françafrique:

Maintenant que le “patriarche” n'est plus, l'on entre dans l'ère des incertitudes et des questionnements. Le schéma constitutionnel – remise du pouvoir à la présidente du Sénat puis élections – sera-t-il respecté ? Va-t-on vers un schéma de bataille fratricide à la togolaise [...]? L'armée gabonaise, totalement invisible, entrera-t-elle en scène ?

Puis profondément, quel est le bilan d'Omar Bongo Ondimba ? Après sa mort, la Françafrique, dont il était le pilier, s'affaiblira-t-elle ? Pour ma part, je pense que oui – mais peut-être que je m'avance trop. Ce système-là était trop centré sur un certain nombre d'hommes, de petits secrets, de règles de départ qui n'existent plus, pour perdurer éternellement.[...]

La Françafrique s'affaiblira, mais la démocratie avancera-t-elle ? L'Afrique se retrouvera bientôt face à son destin et aux contradictions de son Histoire. Personne ne l'aidera à en démêler les noeuds. Mais observons d'abord ce qui se passera dans les prochains jours au Gabon.

Now that the “patriarch” has passed away, we are entering an era of uncertainty and questioning. The constitutional outline -power transfer to the President of the Senate and then elections-, is it going to be respected? Are we going to fall into fratricidal fighting like in Togo [...]? Is the Gabonese army, completely invisible, going to enter the scene?

More profoundly, what is the legacy of Omar Bongo Odinma? After his death, is the Françafrique, of which he was the pillar, going to weaken? Personally, I think so – but maybe I'm getting ahead of myself. This system was too focused on certain men, on little secrets, on exit rules that don't exist anymore, to last forever. [...]

Françafrique will grow weaker, but will democracy move forward? Africa will soon be faced to its own destiny and to the contradictions of its history. Nobody will help her to untie the knots. But let's first observe what will happen in the next days in Gabon.

Emmanuel Bellart of Cameroon [Fr] expressed his relief:

Dieu merci, car un autre est parti, l'afrique commence à respirer petit à petit, il ne fallait plus que ça pour que l'afrique puisse finalement ouvrir les yeux, monsieur omar bongo qui a mit 41 ans au pouvoir, ce qui est iraisonnable nous a montré combien ces vieux de la france voulaient vraiment detruire l'afrique, c'est claire que personne ne doit souhaiter la mort d'un être humain, mais d'un côté, c'est un soulagement pour le peuple gabonais, sauf qu'il y'avait une chose que monsieur bongo devait faire, c'est organiser le pouvoir et non de le preparer pour ses enfants [...]

adieu le doyen, laissons le pouvoir au peuple et non à une personne, quand tu t'accapare du pouvoir , tu meurs et on t'oublit

Thank God, another one is gone and Africa is starting to breathe little by little. That's all we needed for Africa to be able to open her eyes at last. Mr Omar Bongo spent 41 years in power, which is unreasonable, he showed us how much those old Frenchmen really wanted to destroy Africa. It's obvious that nobody wishes the death of another human being, but on the other hand it's a relief for the Gabonese people, except that there was something that mister Bongo needed to do and it was organize power instead of grooming his children [...]

Goodbye the most senior [dictator], let's leave the power to the people and not to one person, when you monopolize all power you die and we forget you

At the newsportal Gaboneco [Fr], a Gabonese reader named Ogwera left a comment asking for democratic elections:

Je suis un citoyen gabonais et j'exige des élections dans le strict respect de la constitution de La République!!!! et je dis non à ceux qui appelle la france à se mêler de la politique gabonaise notamment BEN MOUMBAMBA qu'on ne connait pas et qui pourrait être un pion de cette france! Les gabonais doivent s'unir et rester vigilants!

I'm a Gabonese citizen and I'm demanding elections in the uttermost respect of the constitution of the Republic!!! and I'm saying no to those that are calling for France to meddle in Gabonese politics, in particular Ben Mouamba whom we don't know and who could be a pawn of France! Gabonese must unite and remain vigilant!
  • http://akin.blog-city.com Akin

    Hello Elia,

    Thanks for referencing my comments in your post. I have also fleshed out those comments in a blog I posted today.

    Gabon: Mr. Bongo, your time is up

    This is a classic case of Africans not being able to get exact information about their leaders, especially those who lead not at the express consent of their people.

    Thanks and regards,

    Akin

  • http://www.yikpa.info Agbessi

    Bongo, just like the late Gnassingbe Eyadema of Togo has ruined his country in his 41 years in power and needs to be forgotten but… wait it’ll be hard to forget him if his son is put in power, and I think that’s what’s going to happen.

  • Pingback: Ali Bongo nouveau président du Gabon? | Poligize

  • Pingback: …My heart’s in Accra » Goodbye to Bongo

  • http://jewelsnthejungle.blogspot.com BRE

    Hello Elia,

    We have also been discussing the consequences of Omar Bongo’s sudden demise here in Germany and of course we are hoping that there will be a peaceful and democratic transition of power in Gabon after so many years of one-man rule and dictatorship.

    Speculation is high among my West African friends that the presidency will go (automatically) to Omar Bongo’s son Ali-Ben Bongo. As far as the ‘peaceful transition’ part goes, so far so good, and it is interesting to note that a woman (Rose Rogombe, the leader of the Senate) is in charge of the country albeit only temporarily.

    Elizabeth Dickinson of Foreign Policy Magazine’s FP Passport blog has linked to your roundup in her latest post on the death of Bongo. You may want to give her a thank you for the attention and increased traffic to your post when you can find the time:

    ‘Africa’s longest-ruling leader dies. Does his era die with him? 06/08/2009
    http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2009/06/08/gabons_omar_bongo_dies_does_his_era_die_with_him

    Has French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the French courts made any progress on locating Gabon’s stolen loot? Non? Schade.

  • Victor Chikaipa, University of Malawi, Zomba

    Elia
    Let me condole the believed family, however history will remember Bongo as a man who ruined his own country and ruled with an Iron hand. Am always shocked with African leaders who fail to built ultra-modern hospitals in their own countries and think of getting medical treatment elsewhere. So do you think your poor people are for the lesser equipped hospitals, what picture do you give the westerners? Shame to you African leaders especially those who are there to embezzle our taxes!! Go ye well BONGO
    vchikaipa@gmail.com

  • Jongoase

    First of all, my condolences to the family of President Alhaj Oumar Bongo and People of Gabon; It is really sad for losing great Africa’s peace man no matter what he was did to the people of Gabon, but this is fate for all human beings. I wish the best to the people of Gabon and entire Africa, whole Africa today is gloomy, god bless you mama Africa, this is the way of life; we hope better to come and peace to Gabon.

  • Agatha Benson

    President Omar Bongo was a man of peace. He just lost his wife in March this year. Guys give the family a break to mourn their beloved father. He did what a man can do to keep peace in Gabon. How many countries in Africa are in peace. Not many of them. Only hand full of them.
    He was the one that stood by Biafrans when the world turned against us even our own African leaders than. Those Biafrans in Gabon will miss their father. I love people of Gabon because of President Omar Bongo. My goal is to visit Gabon even though my man is dead. My dream is alive.
    Gabonese be strong and prayerful. Do not allow outside forces to change the love you have for President Omar Bongo. How can those of us that survive Biafra forget President Omar Bongo. He was only leader we knew then. He took upon himself to save us.

  • kimberley ondo

    it is sad that this man has died and left his country with a legacy of poverty and misery that could have been aleviated by the wealth that he plundered from the earth, assisted by the French, who at best, thier only redeeming quality, is thier ability to organise wholesale theft from Gabon and to find places for President bongo to stash his stolen riches and aid and abet him in the misery of the people of Gabon.

    May he rest in peace – God will judge him now.

  • TRIED STONE

    THE WORLD IS SHIFTING. UNFORTUNAYELY SOME ARE TOO BLIND TO SEE IT. I AM 37 YEARS OLD AND FROM GABON. BONGO BECAME PRESIDENT BEFORE I WAS BORN. IT IS UNHEARD OF. AFTER MUCH PRAYER FOR CHANGE GOD HAS GIVING GABON AN OPPORTUNITY TO SHIFT WITH THE REST OF THE WORLD AND GO A DIFFERENT DIRECTION.
    PEOPLE OF GABON, DO YOU HEAR GOD SPEAKING?
    WE NEED SOMEONE NEW, WITH A NEW VISION AND GENUINE COMPASSION FOR THE PEOPLE.
    BONGO’S REIGN IS OVER.
    GABON IS A COUNTRY, NOT A KINGDOM TO BE PASSED DOWN FROM FATHER TO SON OR FATHER TO DAUGHTER.
    THERE IS A SCRIPTURE IN THE BOOK OF ISAIAH THAT READS:” IN THE YEAR THAT KING UZZIAH DIED I SAW THE LORD SITTING UPON A THRONE, HIGH AND LIFTED UP, ….”.
    THE PEOPLE HAD BEEN BLINDED FOR SO MANY YEARS.
    THE BLINDFOLD CAME OFF. NO MORE EXCUSES.
    LOOK UP AND SEE.

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